Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Understanding "Dakryo"

Part 6 in the story series, "Second-Guessing God's Goodness ..."

Jesus wept.

It's the shortest verse in the entire Bible, yet it stands alone like a punctuated shout to the heavens.

Jesus wept.

After Mary, the second sister, falls to Jesus's feet in sorrow over her brother's death, something interesting happens.

Let's look at the scene.

Mary and the others with her -- the religious leaders who are there to "comfort" her -- cry. (I put "comfort" in quotes, because actually they are Jesus's sworn enemies.)

The original language says they were "Klaio" -- the Greek word for "wailing." Have you ever been to a funeral where wailing was taking place? Have you ever wailed in grief? Do you know the bitterness of soul, the anguish of spirit, that provokes the sound of a wail? I do. I've had black days. A loved one of mine once told me that during a season of my grief, my wails sounded like that of a wounded animal.



This is what was happening around Jesus and at Jesus's feet.

Were they wailing for lack of faith? Of course, the religious leaders who were there as spectators were wailing for the great drama it added to the scene. But we'll get to that tomorrow. Mary, on the other hand, wailed with the pain of a tortured child in spirit.

This provoked an interesting response in Jesus.

"He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled," says our modern English translation in the NIV in John 11:33.

But even that phrase doesn't do justice to Jesus's response. The word used in the original text for "deeply moved" was, "embrimaomai."

This was no simple emotion Jesus was feeling.

The translation of embrimaomai was used to describe "the snorting of animals" -- and as it pertained to humans -- anger. Not just any anger, though. Commentaries note that the real way to put this was that Jesus was "angry in spirit and very agitated."

In other words, He was pretty darn furious.

At what, though?

His good friend Mary, although she had imperfect faith, was in deep emotional distress. The wailing provoked embrimaomai -- not against Mary -- but against death itself. The evil of death -- the way that death robs us of those dearest to our hearts and minds and separates us from their presence -- provoked embrimaomai in Jesus. Sure, He could have been agitated at the fake Pharisees and their fake wailing. But the word, "embrimaomai," connotes a much deeper agitation than that. It speaks to Jesus's mission -- to conquer that (death) which ultimately separated man from God.

"Where have you laid him?" Jesus asked. "Come and see," they replied.

And here we see the famous verse:

"Jesus wept."

Here's the most fascinating part about the story, though. The translation for "wept" is NOT the same word used for the word, "wail." It's another word: DAKRYO.

And what was Dakryo?

It's sadness -- sadness triggered by empathy.

See ... Jesus knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead in a few moments and that all of this wailing would stop in a heartbeat. But He still felt their pain and sorrow.


He cried with them.

He longed to take all of this away from them, all of the pain they felt in the depths of their souls. He longed for death to no longer have power over mankind. And He knew that with His own death in a short time, that He would be the conquerer of death. After His own death, He knew that people would have an open invitation to come to God, to be reconciled, and to live eternally -- AND to be with one another again after each of them died!

This was pretty daggone glorious, if you ask me.

And yet ... Jesus wept.


Jesus cried because they were crying.

The most beautiful description I've found that relates to this scene is in C.S. Lewis's "The Silver Chair," part of his Chronicles of Narnia series. In the book, King Caspian has died. Lewis beautifully re-creates the scene of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus next.

Read it with me:

"Then they saw that they were once more on the Mountain of Aslan, high up above and beyond the end of that world in which Narnia lies. But the strange thing was that the funeral music for King Caspian still went on, though no one could tell where it came from. They were walking beside the stream and the Lion went before them: and he became so beautiful, and the music so despairing, that Jill did not know which of them it was that filled her eyes with tears.

"Then Aslan stopped, and the children looked into the stream. And there, on the golden gravel of the bed of the stream, lay King Caspian, dead, with the water flowing over him like liquid glass. His long white beard swayed in it like water-weed. And all three stood and wept. Even the Lion wept: great lion-tears, each tear more precious than the Eath would be if it was a single solid diamond."


But wait ... this story isn't over -- not by a long-shot. Tune in for part 7 of the series, "Second-Guessing God's Goodness."

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